Before our youngest could ride correctly and confidently on their new bike, we wanted to look for a way that they could still join us on longer family bike rides and feel like they were joining in and not just sitting in a trailer.
After searching the internet and walking around a lot of bike stores, we found an attachment that would connect their bike to ours. The one we used is called a trail-gator and we’ve written this guide to help show you where to get this from and how to attach it.
To attach your kids bike simply un-clip the tow bar from the stored position on your bike and extend it. You can then attach this to your kids’ bike.
In this article we are looking at attaching your kids bike to yours, so that they can join you on a bike ride whilst still on their bike. If you want to look at alternatives like bike trailers, please take a look at our previous blog here.
- What does the tow bar do?
- Requirements to use the tow bar
- How to operate the Trail-Gator tow bar
- Ride with a tow bar attached for the first time
- Rider safety whilst using a tow bar
What does the tow bar do?
The trail-gator bicycle tow bar will convert your kids’ normal bike into a safe, towable trailer bike whenever you need it.
When your bike is connected the front wheel of your kids’ bike is slightly lifted off the ground and the extendable stabilizing bar will prevent their handlebars from turning. This will leave you in control of the steering and your kid can choose to either coast along or pedal also whilst they are being towed.
This will make the ride and experience a lot easier for them and will also make sure they can feel like they are joining in on the family bike outing. You’ll also have the choice of un-attaching them on the journey easily if required.
Requirements to use the tow bar
- The tow bar fits a kids bike with a 12” (30.5cm) to 20” (50.8cm) tire diameter
- The Adult bike tire size needs to be at least 25” (63.5cm)
- The tow bar fits a child’s bike with head tubes up to 1.77” (45mm) wide in diameter and expands for a bolting distance of 4.1” (105mm).
- The tow bar fits an adult bike seat post with a diameter of 1” (25.4mm) to 1.25” (31.8mm)
- The tow bar will accept a maximum child weight of 70 pounds (32kg)
- The Adult rider must weigh at least double that of the kid.
- The kids’ bike must have the capability of coasting without pedalling (free wheel capable)
- The kids’ bike must have no accessories or equipment on the front that will interfere with tow bar operations
- Training wheels must be stored up or out of the way whilst being towed. You can also remove these whilst using if required. We’ve written an article on how to do this here.
How to operate the Trial-Gator tow bar
Below we have briefly detailed the guide to operating the tow bar. We would always suggest reverting to the manufacture guide for first time installation. This will come with your new tow bar, but should you wish to view this online for the trail-gator, you can do so here.
Using the tow bar:
- Unclip tow bar from stored position.
- Remove pin, extend to proper length, insert pin and latch (Warning: Failure to place safety latch over end of pin can result in pin coming loose and can cause serious injury to riders)
- Remove Quick Release from coupler end of tow bar
- Hold tow bar coupler end in one hand and lift front of child bike with other hand. Slide coupler down over receiver, engaging them at curved ears. Lower both tow bar and child bike, keeping upward force on child bike, until fully engaged.
- Insert Quick Release and lock
- Unclip stabilizer bar, pivot down and snap to front fork
Storing the tow bar:
- Unclip stabilizer bar from front fork by holding stabilizer bar with fingers and pushing against fork with your thumb
- Pivot stabilizer bar up to stored position and clip.
- Remove Quick Release from coupler and receiver.
- Hold tow bar coupler end in one hand and child bike in other hand. Lift both up, slightly pushing down on child bike until disengaged.
- Insert Quick Release into coupler end of tow bar for storage. (Warning: Excessive clamping force may damage coupler by collapsing it).
- Remove pin, slide tow bar together, insert pin and latch.
- Fold tow bar down to side and place into storage clip.
Take a look at this great clip, which will show you exactly how to attach the tow bar for the first time.
Ride with a tow bar attached for the first time
It’s always best the first time you use the tow bar to find a safe, flat, level riding area with minimal traffic. This way you can become safely familiar with operating and getting a feeling of towing the kids’ bike.
Once you’ve attached the tow bar for the first time, we’d suggest going for a ride without towing your kid on the child’s bike. This is a perfect time to take a mental note of how both bikes are turning and get a feel for it whilst riding, stopping and starting.
Take particular note of how the kids bike tracks closer to yours when turning and may require a wider turn when your close to objects so that you can make sure you clear them.
You should always continue to ride with child bike attached and unoccupied until you feel completely confident with your ability to safely operate stopping, starting and towing your kid on the bike.
Once you’ve mastered the above, still in a safe area away from traffic, hold your bike in upright position and allow your kid to mount their bike. Make sure you are holding both bikes steady when your child gets on.
Now you can begin riding with your kid at a slow pace and continue to keep riding until you are confident of both your abilities and your kids abilities to safely operate their bike whilst the tow bar is attached.
Remember to practice starting and stopping. The distances required to stop will be different than that when you were riding alone. You have to remember to allow for extra weight and length when both stopping and starting.
When you’ve got a good understanding of these differences, you’ll be in good stead to attempt to use the tow bar in general riding situations. Next you should teach your kid that it’s important to only use their brakes when instructed. I’d suggest teaching them this before attempting general riding situations.
Only when you are confident of both yours and your kids abilities to safely use the tow bar can you then use it for more general riding situations. You should never use the tow bar if you have any doubts about either of your abilities to handle general riding situations.
Rider safety whilst using a tow bar
- Both you and your kid must wear properly fitted and approved bike helmets. Check out our guide to bike helmets here.
- You should never use the tow bar off-road. You should only use on smooth surfaces.
- Never exceed maximum child rider weight of 70 pounds (32kg).
- Do not ride on highways, in high traffic areas or on unsafe streets.
- Be aware not to let your speed exceed 15 miles per hour whilst using the tow bar.
- Be cautious to not ride over bumps or curbs whilst using the tow bar.
- You should avoid cornering near objects. Your child’s bike will track closer to objects than your bike.
- Never ever carry more than one kid on the child’s bike.
- You shouldn’t ever use the tow bar with a motorized bicycle or vehicle.
- You should never be carrying another kid or person on the adult bike whilst using the tow bar.
- As the adult rider you must be thoroughly familiar with all operations and controls (steering, braking and gears) of a bike before using tow bar.
- Remember to allow for much greater starting and stopping distances due to extra length and weight of having a kid rider and child’s bike attached.
- Before allowing your kid to mount their bike, you must hold your bike in an upright position steady and securely.
- Never use when your kid is tired. Your child must be alert and capable of staying seated, keeping hands on handlebars and feet on pedals always.
- Both you and your kid should wear shoes that are securely fastened onto their feet. Be sure that they provide an adequate grip to pedals. You should not ride barefoot or with sandals on.
- Riding at night or in low light is dangerous and should be avoided where possible. You should only ride at night with approved bike lighting systems and correctly positioned reflectors on both yours and your kid’s bikes.
Q: Would the tow bar be suitable to use in and on rough terrain?
A: The tow bars are designed and tested for the purposes of on-road use only.
Q: How does towing affect the balance and overall ride of the adult bike?
A: Anyone who can safely balance when riding alone shouldn’t have a problem balancing with the tow bar attached. We recommend reading our guide above on how to use when attached for the first time.
Q: Can the child steer their bike when it is attached?
A: The front wheel of the kids’ bike is elevated off the ground and the handlebars of the kids bike are secured by the handlebar stabilizer rod, your adult bike will control all of the steering
Q: Is the child using the rear wheel brake a problem whilst attached?
A: We recommend that when learning to use the tow bar and prior to using in general situations you work with your kid on when and when not to use their brakes. Practice as outlined above and teach to only use upon your instruction too.
Q: Can training wheels be left down on the kids bike whilst using the tow bar?
A: Leaving training wheels attached to your kids bike while towing them is dangerous. They must either be removed prior or you can replace with Flip-Up Training Wheels. These are specially designed for use with the tow bar and you can find them here.